Toward a Documentary Landscape
AuthorTopic: Toward a Documentary Landscape Read 263 Times
Landscape & Nature Photographyon: September 8, 2019 at 1:39 pm
It has occurred to me recently that a great deal of contemporary landscape photography has crystallized around the Hero Shot. That moment when the drifting fog is lit just so by the morning sun, that moment when the clouds are perfectly positioned over the peak and also pink tinged with sunset.
These are the moments when, in the wilderness, in the forest, in the desert, your breath is taken away, when you say wow! and stand for a little time, overwhelmed. These moments are the few seconds or a few minutes of a day when, if you happen to be standing the right spot, you can have a truly sublime moment.
These moments also overlook something. The miss out on the 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day when you, still in the desert, or in the forest, are surrounded by wonders, but without the almost violent gut-punch of those moments.
We lose the small moments. The backlit fern that, if you should happen to notice it, makes you say not wow! but aww! We lose the sense of place, the simple presence of the forest around us, and the wonder that it is. We lose the detail. The Hero Shot sacrifices much. I want to get it back.
You could certainly argue that this is simply sour grapes, because it happens that I am no good at the Hero Shot, I haven’t the patience, time, or energy to go hunting for those. But the forest is still wonderous, even when the light is “bad” and at the wrong season.
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Mike Nelson Pedde
ParticipantPosts: 268Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #1 on: September 8, 2019 at 9:26 pm
Andrew: This is a photography site not a poetry site, but since you’ve opened that door, this is something I wrote for Marcia nearly 25 years ago:
I would like to be able to walk in the woods with you the way I walk when I’m by myself. I’ve never been able to say that to anyone, and yet so many things seem so different with you. Fresh, like a spring day.
When I take someone else to the woods, I feel as though I’m a guide, taking them to a place that is my home and yet so unfamiliar to many. The woods are my brother/sister, a piece of my soul. When I go into the woods by myself, I disappear and they become me and I become them. We flow together as one. Other people could walk through me and not know that I was there. When I go there alone I feel as if we’re dancing; we begin a dance together – a dance of life and harmony, a dance of great beauty and love. Yet, I feel when I go to the woods with someone else that if I were to begin this dance that I would disappear and they would find themselves alone in a place that was not familiar to them. So, at these times I do not dance.
What I would like with you, however, is to be able to dance together, the three of us, the woods and you and me so we might all join together in this undulation of time, of space.
This would be beauty as I see it.
Mike Nelson Pedde
- This reply was modified 7 months ago by Mike Nelson Pedde.
ParticipantPosts: 18Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #2 on: September 10, 2019 at 9:36 am
IMO, one does nor preclude the other. I try to look for shots even when the light is outside of golden or blue hours envelopes.Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #3 on: September 10, 2019 at 1:06 pm
Thank you, Mike, for sharing that! I have pretty much stopped trying to take single, standalone, photos. Everything I do is intended to be grouped, and accompanied by text. It’s working for me!
ParticipantPosts: 15Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #4 on: September 10, 2019 at 4:32 pm
…the Hero Shot…
Not a bad name for what I call the tyranny of spectacular. The downside of the more intimate imagery is that only the photographer (and perhaps his mother) likes it. I exaggerate, of course, but not much.Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #5 on: September 10, 2019 at 6:38 pm
Well, you’re certainly not wrong, Slobodan!
I’m note sure very many people like photography at all, although occasionally people may be induced to like one picture or another. That said, some little collection of snaps is singularly unappealing, even to me, generally. On the one hand, it is something photography is very good at, but on the other the results can be remarkably tedious.
Adding in words can help. Minamata by Gene Smith would be, without the words, a bunch of (agreeable) snaps of Japanese people, and one sublime photo of someone getting a bath. With the words, it becomes something else. The pictures are rarely just illustrations to accompany the words, and the words are rarely mere explanations of the pictures. Together, though, they become something remarkable.
It’s something to aspire to. The modern “documentary artist” so aspires, but usually falls.. extremely short.
No matter what, though, showing something of this sort half-made is a recipe for total non-comprehension. I think I did pretty well above, as these things go, but it could certainly be pounded in to much better shape. Whether it could ever be good is of course a value judgement, but it might become appealing.
Mike Nelson Pedde
ParticipantPosts: 268Re: Toward a Documentary LandscapeReply #6 on: September 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm
Andrew: If you’re not familiar with Andy Ilachinski’s site, “The Tao of Photography”, it might interest you.
You can find a gallery of his work at: http://sudden-stillness.com/
By day Andrew deals with mathematical models and astrophysics and things like that, but then he slips into a figurative phone booth…
Mike Nelson Pedde
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